Organic healing and growth serve as the foundation for a new work, “Things Hidden and Left Unsaid,” by Joanna Read and Same Planet Performance Project.
Dance what you can’t say; Joanna Read and Same Planet explore the things that we don’t say in “Things Hidden and Left Unsaid” at Dovetail.
It is not uncommon for dancers to describe what they do as something akin to therapy. Working through a creative process can also be an artist working through their emotions. Sometimes the goal is just to move. But from these fertile grounds it is not surprising when something starts to grow.
When the Same Planet dancers returned to rehearsals following the COVID pandemic, they had a lot to get off their chests. Read told See Chicago Dance in an interview that “After the pandemic, we were just messing around in the studio, just trying to move, not thinking about putting on a show. We started playing with ideas of things that you can’t express—lacking courage, being afraid, anger, frustration, and other things.”
Like many people, Read struggled in the new social and political landscape following the COVID pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. She found that many people had their own (loud) opinions—including “some straight, white dudes mansplaining how to run my business”—but very few people who genuinely wanted to have a conversation. That conversation is now taking place within this work.
While Read has specific motivations, she is adamant that she is not trying to project her own internal feelings directly on the audience, saying that “The work is very abstract. But not for the sake of abstractness. There are a lot of emotional undertones, but we’re not explicitly telling you how to feel.”
Instead, Read attempts to give the work a surreal quality, saying that “It feels like when you’re in a dream and you keep ending up in different scenarios. It’s very nonlinear, like one moment you’re at a dinner table with four people, the next you are in the desert. And you don’t know how you got there. That’s sort of the feel of the piece.”
There is no box that you can stuff Read’s style into. Sneak peak videos given to SCD by Read show two dancers limping back and forth stiffly, arms outstretched and lightly flapping. The dancers then melt, falling into long chassés that span the width of the room, legs kicking high. Then, a static hold, arms and legs elongated into a giant X. Read explains that “The movement goes from very pedestrian to very technical to lots of partnering and physicality. There’s a lot of speed, aggression, and then tenderness. The landscape of our material is very vast, and we use repetition a lot to ground ourselves.”
Read’s style lends itself to imagery. Another video shows one dancer furiously punching down and across her body, like a piston, while another dancer stands behind them and slowly raises their arms like the sun rising in the distance. They both become caught in a tumultuous spin cycle of twisting torsos and flailing arms, their breathing slowly coming together, creating a punctuated and mechanical “hiss, hiss, hiss.” Themes of nature and industrial machinery are but a few of the powerful images Read’s choreography may evoke in the viewer’s imagination.
“Things Hidden and Left Unsaid” is a rework of an older piece that premiered in 2020 but had to be redone nearly from the ground up. Read explains that “Michelle Kranicke and Zephyr asked if we could do a show at her space, SITE/less, which, if you’ve never seen her space, there are green ramps everywhere. There is no floor. You’re elevated and in order to dance you have to move from ramp to ramp.” While elements of the original still exist, Read made it clear that this piece is a whole different animal and says that “Everything that looked good at SITE/less didn’t look good at Dovetail. The space really changed the context of everything. We almost had to start again.”
Sometimes “Things Hidden and Left Unsaid” is light and graceful, other times it is violent and chaotic, both serving as an avenue that hopefully leads towards a catharsis. Anger, frustration, guilt, indignation, righteousness… Why do we have such a hard time talking (not just yelling) about these things? Maybe because we can’t. But one thing we can do is dance about them. If you’ve got some feelings that you just can’t put into words, perhaps give this new presentation by Read and Same Planet a chance to put those words into movement.
“Things Hidden…” transforms the black box theater at Dovetail Studios into a surreal dreamscape, featuring dancers Patrick Burns, Chloe Michels, Enid Smith and Juli Farley. The soundtrack features music by John Lennon, Traffic and atmospheric soundscapes. Lighting design is by the always satisfying Jacob Snodgrass, and fringy, flowing costumes are by Vin Reed.
“Things Hidden and Left Unsaid” runs from Nov. 4 – 6 at Dovetail Studios, 2853 W Montrose Ave, at 7:30pm and 5:30pm on Sunday. For tickets same-planet.org or click on the event image below.